Friday, June 16, 2006

Play Money

I looked at the new $20 bill, felt it, turned it over and back again. I just didn’t look real. It had too much color in it and all these new-fangled, fancy-dancy gizmos in it to keep it from being copied. It reminded me of monopoly money: fake. I often feel the same way when I see foreign bills with different colors and different faces and even different numbers: fake.

They don’t always seem fake though. I remember Monopoly games back in Indiana that would go for days at our house. Those golden $500 bills seemed to be worth gold. Collecting that $200 for passing GO was invaluable for getting another house on Park Place or Boardwalk before my brother got around the “Go to Jail” corner. Monopoly money was worth something.

Have you ever thought about what gives that piece of cotton we call dollars it’s value? It certainly isn’t the sum of what makes up the bill itself. For almost forty years now it doesn’t represent a chunk of gold in Fort Knox. Yet that $20 bill is honored in every country in the world, whether in public or on the black market. That $20 bill is used to buy food, TVs, drugs, guns and medicine. What makes the fake become valuable?

It is the will, the spirit, and the agreement of the people that gives it value. $20 is $20 because you and I agree that it is. We infuse that $20 bill with life and breath because we want it to. We take an inanimate object and breath life into it. Sometimes it takes on a life of it’s own. Witness the 1999 Pennsylvania P quarter. When released we all agreed that it was worth 25 cents, but one in good condition nowadays can get you over 3 times that amount and an unopened roll originally worth $10 is now worth over $50. Why? Because we have agreed that it is worth more.

I think we do the same with people. I have seen a paper thin person swell with pride and joy from one good word of encouragement. I have seen another deflated to near nothing with a put-down or personal failure. Pop stars are that way because we will it; when we no longer will it they show up on VH1’s “Where are they now?” show as has-beens. We breathe life into each other or we take the wind out of their sails. We agree, we chose, so let us chose life and breath and not devalue each other. Let’s pick the penny up off the sidewalk.

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